Kitalong-Will, Ann. “Analyzing the Interactive Audience:  Constructing a Communal Knowledge Base.” Resources in Technical Communication:  Outcomes and Approaches. Ed. Selfe, Cynthia. Amityville, N.Y.: Baywood, 2007. 179-94. Print.

  • In this article K-W claims that after reading/completing the assignments “Students will understand how audiences interact with businesses within new digital contexts, and how they construct communal knowledge bases within such spaces” (179).
  • K-W draws attention to what Zuboff & Maxmin call the “support economy” or the form of capitalism wherin the consumer is an integral part of the marketplace in more than passive ways.  In other words, the consumer contributes to the knowledge base of business through various feedback mechanisms.  This results in the consumer shaping business practices instead of being merely the end point on the production line. In other words, businesses are now “on-demand” or able to shift to consumer will & desire rather dynamically.  K-W then claims that TC instructors need to prepare Ss for this changed market system by teaching them to “effectively interact with information in digital media environments” (179).  As such, K-W recommends teaching students various forms of audience analysis as a way of learning how to interact with information in digital contexts.
  • What does business tell us?
    • Responsive businesses recognize that a successful model focuses on customers: what customers want and how to deliver (180).  Businesses use customer satisfaction as a key indicator in predicting financial well (or not so well) being.  This transfer from the manufacturing to the support economy makes the communication process even more important: workers must be able to communicate with and interpret customer desire.  The relationship created in that communicative process is often (in the contemporary economy) more important that price or quality.  So, in summa, consumers don’t merely consume information nowadays; rather, they are active participants in its shaping (182).
  • What does academic research tell us?
    • Audience in TC is typically comprised of four groups: Experts (theory), Technicians, Managers (financial), and Lay-persons.  Yet, in traditional TC the audience is merely a person who recieves the information – they aren’t a coconstructor of it.
    • In “communal constructivism” theory (Leask & Younie 2001) the communication process reveals five core aspects of the communal construction of meaning, knowledge, and information.  The five parts include:
      • Knowledge is built communally (rather than by the individual).
      • Knowledge builders draw on actual sitautions rather than theoretical situations to build knowledge.
      • Information and communication technology support access to konwledge bases by folks who exist beyond any one individual’s zone of proximal development (reference to Vygotsky/AT).
      • Technology allows individuals to create high-quality output of knowledge.
      • Technology allows others to ‘build on, add to and republish knowledge for their own purposes or in conjunction with other creators of the knowledge’ (Leask & Younie 119, 184).
    • Communication courses should be changed so that the skills TC instructors are teaching directly align with the constant feedback mechanisms of the support economy.  In other words, technologies make the exchange of information between consumer and business far more easy; as such, TC students should be taught how to participate in that interaction, how to think about knowledge as mutually coconstructed, and what stakes are involved in such a process (184).
  • As a way to teach this interaction (between multiple indivduals in the communal construction of knowledge from communally shared information), K-W provides an extensive amount of information on how to teach Wikipedia as a site of audience analysis and observable interaction (186).  This draws attention to various issues already discussed as well as copyright, authorized/unauthorized knowledges, and communal knowledge making practices/standards.

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